Women in their 50s and well past meno-pause who have been implanted
with a donor embryo stand a good chance of giving birth to healthy
baby, according to a new study by USC researchers.
The study – a joint project of Mark Sauer and Richard Paulson, both
associate professors of obstetrics and gynecology, and Rogerio Lobo,
professor of obstetrics and gynecology – expands on the team’s
previous research into embryo donations and pregnancy outcomes in
menopausal women in their 30s and 40s. Their results were published
recently in the British journal Lancet.
“We have once again extended the age for successful implantation and
pregnancy well beyond the norm into what I would consider a much more
advanced reproduction age group,” Sauer said.
The USC findings provide further evidence that the uterine lining,
called the endometrium, can respond to hormones and provide a
receptive environment for embryo implantation and gestation long
after the ovaries stop producing eggs and hormones.
Pregnancies achieved through egg donation use techniques of in-vitro
fertilization, which combine eggs from a donor with sperm from the
recipient’s husband. The resulting embryo is then transferred to the
recipient’s uterus, which has been primed for pregnancy with a
regimen of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
In the study, 14 menopausal women ages 50 to 55 were implanted with
eggs donated by women ages 28 to 31. Of the 21 embryos implanted in
the older women, an impressive eight pregnancies resulted.
Of the eight women, four delivered healthy babies, two are due in the
spring, one gave birth to a low birth-weight infant, and one had a
miscarriage at seven weeks.
“I think what’s striking about this study is that women even in their
50s, when well selected, are able to enjoy a very high implantation
and pregnancy rate,” Sauer said.
All the women in the study were screened to ensure that they were in
excellent health. “The rates in this study are higher than the rates
in younger women using their own eggs for in-vitro fertilization,” he
Statistically, maternal and obstetrical risks increase with age.
Women having babies in their 40s are more likely to have pre-term
labor, small gestational age at delivery and stillbirths. But a high
rate of miscarriage or infant abnormality among these women wouldn’t
be expected, Sauer said, because those problems are related to the
age of the egg, and the eggs in this study are young.
In general, infant mortality rates and maternal mortality rate are
high in women over 40, but if high-risk obstetrical care is provided,
the rate of obstetrical complications may not be much greater than it
is in younger women.